Saturday, March 3, 2007

Classic Pesto

1 pinch coarse sea salt
60 small or 30 large fresh basil leaves, dried
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons pignoli, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, fresh, finely grated
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh, finely grated
3 - 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions: In a mortar:
Start with salt and few leaves of basil. Crush with a pestle, keep adding leaves a few at a time, then add garlic and pound until the mixture becomes a paste. Add pignoli and work into a paste, then add cheese and slowly pour the olive oil. Work all into a creamy consistency.

In a blender:
Add basil, salt and garlic. Work into a paste, add pignoli and slowly pour half of the olive oil. Add cheese and the remaining olive oil. Blend until it becomes a homogenous, creamy paste.

To make the sauce, pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonreactive skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the pan. Cook, shaking the pan, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, stir in the crushed red pepper and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to simmering and cook until lightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour in the clam juice and cook an additional 15 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Slip the agnolotti into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently as you add them. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until the edges are tender, about 4 minutes after the water returns to a boil.

If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and agnolotti, fish the agnolotti out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and add them directly to the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the agnolotti gently and return them to the pot. Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil, stirring gently to coat the agnolotti with sauce. Drizzle the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil over the pasta and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary and serve immediately.

Classic Pesto

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